Congratulations! Your baby is 4 months old and your tiny, sleepy newborn is finally a sturdy, alert infant. They’re interested in their surroundings and smiling and socializing! It is such a fun milestone, but it can also be an exhausting one as four months also brings to some the dreaded, four month sleep regression.
Now, whether it is actually a regression is up for debate! A regression implies a disruption in sleep patterns, but up until this point, a child does not have the biological drive to create sleep patterns. So, rather than a disruption, this sleep “regression” is more of a sleep development.
You see, at four months a baby develops the biological rhythms and hormones necessary to drive lengthy and regulated sleep and unless you understand their developing sleep needs and follow suit, you will see your child struggle to take restorative naps and sleep as well through the night as they once had. So what do you need to know to set your baby up for sleep success?
Understand Your Baby’s Emerging Circadian Rhythm
We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that have evolved from daytime (light) and nighttime (dark) cues. These biological rhythms make us feel drowsy at certain times! Sleeping in sync with your natural sleep rhythms will produce the most restorative and best quality sleep possible.
Up until this point, your baby’s brain was too immature to sync with their internal clock. For this reason, they body had an easy time sleeping anywhere and at anytime. Now that their brain has started to mature, they are in need of a schedule that reflects their biological sleep rhythms. This includes a bedtime that allows them to sleep before they are overtired.
When Can Your Baby Catch This Sleep Wave?
The ideal nap schedule for a 4-month old looks like this:
Nap One should start between 8:30-9:00am
Nap Two should start between 12:15-12:45am
Nap Three should start 90 minutes - 2 hours after they wake from their second nap
You will want to watch your baby for their sleep signals (actions they take, which show they are tired such as zoning out, yawning, or rubbing their eyes) to get them down for their nap in these windows, but when they’re most ready.
Remember, at 4 months old your baby’s circadian rhythm is just starting to develop and will continue to evolve over the next few weeks; therefore you will see some inconsistency with napping. Some days will be great and others will be all over the place. That is ok! You just need to be consistent with your approach and put your baby down for their naps in these biologically age appropriate windows. Having them on a schedule where they are sleeping during their biological sleep waves will allow them to achieve the best quality sleep!
The thing is, they will still need to learn some self soothing skills to sleep for appropriate and fully restorative amounts of time.. If you have not started already, this is a good time to allow them to learn to put himself to sleep.
Bedtime Needs To Occur Before He Becomes Overtired
If your baby can fall asleep for the night prior to becoming overtired, they will have the easiest time falling asleep and staying asleep on their own. To achieve this goal, bedtime should fall 90 minutes - 2 hours after they wake up from their third nap. As an example, if they napped from 3:00-4:00pm, bedtime would need be at 5:30-6:00pm.
It is a common misconception that putting your child to bed this early will cause them to wake early. In fact, the exact opposite is true. An early bedtime that occurs before a baby can become overtired, actually allows them to sleep longer and later into the morning. It is very common for babies this age to start sleeping 12-13 hours a night at this point if they go to bed early enough.
Location, Location, Location
At this age it is critical to make sure that your baby is taking the majority of their naps in a stationary crib in dark, cool, and quiet room. This is due to them reaching several social and cognitive milestones that make them extremely distracted by their environment. This will ensure that he has he will be able to fall asleep without succumbing to all of the new and excited things around him.
A nap on the go every once in a while is ok, but we want to make sure the majority are happening at home. Babies have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary crib, bed, or bassinet. Vibrations or motion during sleep (like that which happens in a stroller or car seat) appear to force the brain to a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap.
A Consistent Routine
Babies actually crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know what to expect. They follow patterns and cues, so if we create a consistent soothing routine before sleep times then he will know to expect sleep to come next.
Your pre-sleep soothing routine doesn’t need to be anything complicated and shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. Nursing or a bottle can be included in this routine, but you do not want this to be their means to sleep. These simple steps will help your baby shift from awake mode to sleep mode with ease.
The Take Away
This change can be frustrating as it has caused your baby’s sleep to seemingly take a step back, but I can assure you that this is a necessary step to getting him on a consistent schedule and allowing him to learn to be a great independent sleeper. If you adhere to the suggestions above, your baby will make this transition with ease.
Well Rested Baby is a team of Family Sleep Institute certified sleep consultants that helps families like yours identify, address, and correct their children’s sleep issues. WRB works with moms and dad’s to create customized sleep plans that reflect a family’s comfort level and philosophies. When paired with WRB’s 360-approach, the entire family is set up for sleep success. WRB offers a variety of support packages.ContactWRB today to schedule a consultation or learn more about how we can help you and yours get the sleep you need and deserve.